4.23.2014

"Healing Love", by Dr. James Marcum (re-posted with permission)

The following article was re-posted with permission from Dr. James Marcum of Heartwise Ministries.

"I am writing this on a beautiful Easter Sunday. The sky is a perfect blue and the sunlight is giving energy and warmth to the world. My thoughts are focused on the healing power of love. The love that emanates from God. We may learn about this by having a relationship with the Creator. This is in our original design and I believe when we do not have this connection the brain and body are under stress and the subsequent adverse chemistry. The world is too often focused on what we can do when it comes to healing and not what God can do. I think about all the money being spent on new medications and genetic research. Are we getting better? Are we being distracted from real truth?

"Someone came into the office with a bag full of supplements, many of which I was unfamiliar. I explained that anything we put into our body, whether this be food, a medicine, a supplement, herb, or even the inputs and thoughts of the mind. It all has some effect on our body. We might not understand the physiology, but there are changes. Modern medicine focuses on individual chemical pathways, reductionism, but I want you to think about the complexity of the body and how everything interacts in ways we might not understand. But, in my experience, even though I do not understand all the physiology, God’s original recommendations have merit. Love is one of these recommendations.

"As I observe the sun today which allow the leaves to undergo photosynthesis giving oxygen for us to breathe and giving the energy to form sugars, I realize that God is always taking care of me. Is love a treatment for this world? Absolutely! Love is more than a feeling, more than hugs and kisses, more than a rose. It involves serving, being with each other, listening, caring, putting the needs of ahead of our own, seeking a relationship with our Creator. God is love and to know God is to love God. Love is definitely involved in healing.

"I remember hearing the story of a child being in the middle of a street and a car approaching. The child was full of fear and stress. A nearby onlooker had no fear but jumped into the street to remove the child from danger. Love casts out fear. Fear, phobias of all sort, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, all produce damaging chemicals. It is estimated that 1:6 suffers from anxiety. Having love in our life is part of the treatment. Love decreases adrenaline, cortisol, inflammation, raises our ability to reason and is a healing belief.


"On Easter our desire is to have love in our life and learn how to have a healing relationship with our Creator and each other. The most important healing event the world has ever known is being celebrated today. This ultimate act of love gives us the healing prescription. I see many who focus on modern medicine and this is needed at times. Many point out the importance of a whole food plant based diet. This is important as well. Others help out with improving the mental health and eliminating stress and fear. This is as important as the food we eat. We must, however, start with the relationship with our Lord which will lead to us understanding love a little bit more each day. This is where the healing starts. Everything will fall into place after this. Love is a treatment for the world. Something to be re-emphasized this Easter."

"Backspin", by Pete Strobl (book review)


"Backspin" is the serious-humorous autobiography of a former professional basketball player in the European leagues, Pete Strobl. Pete played college ball at Niagara University, and went on to play nine seasons professionally in European leagues.  He founded (and now coaches youngsters at) The Scoring Factory, a basketball skills camp in Pittsburgh, PA.

The book's title comes from Pete's telling of his many experiences and what those same experiences taught him.  At strategic points in the book, Pete pauses his story-telling to tell "the story behind the story", which he aptly titles, "backspin".  These shorter "backspins" are often comprised of little lessons he experienced, but may not have recognized until later.  Pete is a marvelous story teller, and his wit made me laugh and think often as I read through it.

Thoughtful people -- I think -- don't simply want to tell interesting stories. Instead, they want those stories to have meaning and inspiration for others.  Because this book made me think about several priceless lessons, I'd like to tell you about just three reflections I took away from this book.  (I'll let you read Pete's interesting stories for yourself in his own words.)

REFLECTION #1: As much as Pete Strobl longed to make it to the "bigs" (aka "NBA") -- just as many athletes hope -- he never quite made it there.  Yet, I got the feeling while reading the book that maybe Pete's purpose in life wasn't to be a big name on NBA TV.  He has a heart for teaching, and eventually that door opened for him.  While he enjoyed playing ball, he also wanted to coach one day.  He explained in the chapter entitled, "Keeping an Open Mind", that he didn't expect to become a coach as soon as he did. Often, we can be disappointed when we do not attain our life goals, but it's only when we approach minor setbacks with an open mind that we find success and joy.

I'm reminded of the old phrase, "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."  As a Christian, I attempt to look at life and its setbacks and successes in view of God's design.  We may make plans, but God orchestrates the music.  We may think we will enjoy a particular pursuit, but it many times God uses those setbacks and disappointments to lead us to a later realization of satisfaction and success.  Pete explained that while he didn't expect to become a coach so soon, he also didn't expect to enjoy it so much.

Lesson #1 - Don't beat yourself up if you don't realize a dream. Maybe something better is waiting for you.

REFLECTION #2: Another interesting thought came with Pete's telling of our perception of "role players". On page 197, Pete writes, "There are role players or accompanists in both music and basketball...Role players sometimes go unnoticed, but are often the difference between a hit record or not."  He tells the story of a bassist who just does his job; he's nobody special, and he's definitely not the front-man. Yet, he is so vital to the music that for some reason a lot of the great hits seem to have his name in the credits. Yet, he may not receive accolades for his great success in supporting other musicians.

The same is true with team sports, Strobl says, and I'd even suggest is true with life in general.  Most of us long to see our name in lights, or to speak in front of thousands, or to have our name recognized as a household name.  But it is often the case that those who are making some of the greatest impact in others lives are those whose names barely peak out from within the shadows.  I think about my own life and all the things I hope to accomplish. More importantly, however, is what I'm doing with what abilities I have where I am now.  Am I striving for fame? Or do I long to make an impact in peoples' lives?  I think this is the point Pete is attempting to make.  If not, that's what I took away from it.

Lesson #2 - What do you really want in life?  Fading fame, or the ability to impact people?

REFLECTION #3: Finally, Pete told a story about a time when he was a youngster going to the arena to watch a young basketball star named Michael Jordan.  "Now that I was coaching younger kids, I thought more than ever about the indelible impression adults can make on kids.  A lot of long hours and hard work on Michael Jordan's part went into making that a memorable night for an arena full of fans.  And with all of that attention comes a responsibility...I vowed to take coaching just as seriously as I did playing" (pp. 267-268).

What are we teaching our children?  What are we teaching others' children?  How we treat these young people speaks volumes into their lives about what they perceive they mean to us.  Influential people have the power to turn a troubled youth into a successful leader, or to break a once-great kid down to a lonesome soul.  I am saddened when I consider all the times I've failed my own children in this manner.

Pete continues a similar thought in the book's conclusion: "They also say that the best way to really master something you love is to teach it to someone else" (p.327).  I have the feeling that Pete will not only be teaching basketball skills into youngsters' lives, but will be speaking wisdom, courage, and discipline into their lives as well.

Lesson #3 - You are always teaching something to others.  Will you be mindful about what it is you're teaching them?

CONCLUSION: There were a lot of stories in this book, and while I got confused a couple times in the midst of Pete's ever-changing "scenery" as he bounced around the European league, I still found it thought-provoking and enjoyable at the same time.  I thought the telling of the many stories lent value to the lessons he would project through them.  I highly recommend this book for basketball fans and athletes alike.  The lessons are well worth the read.

Coach Pete Strobl can be reached though his website, CoachStrobl.com.

RATING: I give "Backspin" 4 out of 5 stars.  It was an enjoyable book, but not one that I thought, "Man, I just can't set this one down."  There were also a few spelling mistakes that I was surprised the editor didn't catch, but they in no way distracted me away from the stories themselves.

DISCLAIMER: I received this book free of charge from the author in exchange for an unbiased review.  I was not obligated to provide a positive review of it; all opinions expressed are mine.

4.15.2014

"Blood Moons Rising: Bible Prophecy, Israel, and the Four Blood Moons", by Mark Hitchcock (book review)


INTRODUCTION: For some reason, people continue trying to predict the return of Jesus, even though Jesus himself said no one but the Father in Heaven knows that particular date and time.  Unfortunately, John Hagee, the front-runner of the "four blood moons prophecy", appears to be doing just that.  While he doesn't outright set a date for the return of Christ, he dances on the same floor with his "Four Blood Moons" prophecy interpretation by approximating a date via four lunar eclipses in a two-year span.  Mark Hitchcock makes it his purpose in this book to refute Hagee's interpretation.

BACKGROUND:  NASA reports that there will be four lunar eclipses (called a "lunar tetrad") in the years 2014 and 2015: (1) 4/15/14, (2) 10/8/14, (3) 4/4/15, and (4) 9/28/15.  Hagee somehow turns these astronomical events into a suggestion that the recurrence of four lunar eclipses tied to major Jewish feasts within a two-year span somehow have significance in God's eschatological plan.  He quotes biblical language that says, "...in the last days, the moon will be turned to blood..."  He suggests this language refers to lunar eclipses, where the moon typically displays a pinkish-red color.

Hagee apparently didn't stop there, but suggests that historically any time a "blood moon" occurred during a Jewish feast time, something significant happened to Israel's people and/or land.  Hagee notes the coming four lunar eclipses will occur during two Passover celebrations and two Sukkot celebrations in two consecutive years. Therefore, he suggests something "big" just might be on the horizon. Just might be?  Isn't there always something big just on the horizon?  But I digress.

THE REFUTATION: In the early pages of this book, I mistakenly thought Hitchcock supported the blood moons prophecy interpretation.  After reading a few chapters, I was confused, so I had to re-read his Introduction to ascertain which position he was taking in the book. I found that the book was, indeed, intended to refute Hagee's position.

Much of the first few chapters dealt with the typical pre-tribulation rapture view of the end times prophecy. This fact comes as no surprise, really, as it was endorsed by the "Left Behind" series author, Tim Lahaye. Pre-tribbers believe Jesus will rapture his Church away from the world just prior to a seven year tribulation. During that time of severe trouble, the rest of humanity will suffer intense suffering and death.  At the conclusion of those seven years, Jesus will return to establish his reign on earth for 1,000 years.

While I see many problems with the pre-tribulation rapture view (since the Bible doesn't even appear to teach a secret rapture), that's not the purpose of this book review.  Instead, I want only to deal with Hitchcock's handling of the four blood moons prophecy.

From the time I re-read the introduction forward, I was able to understand Hitchcock's approach. However, it wasn't until approximately the last half of the book that Hitchcock outright confronted the flaws of Hagee's prophetic interpretation.  So I say this with all honesty -- he did it well.  I say so not simply because I agreed with Hitchcock's position, but because what he said made logical and biblical sense.  As I read about Hagee's prophetic interpretation, I asked myself many of the questions that Hitchcock would also address in the book.

For instance, Hagee said historically the blood moons that fell on Jewish feasts had ties to significant events for the Israeli land and/or people.  However, the events Hagee hoped to connect could be found to be separated from the lunar eclipses by upwards of six months to a year!  It seems as though Hagee doesn't think people will actually perform a simple Internet search to check his "facts".  Instead, I wonder if he thinks people will simply swallow his ideas whole in blind belief.

CONCLUSION: I don't make it a habit or interest to listen to the newest en-times prophecy interpretations or doomsday predictions.  So, quite honestly, I didn't even know this prophetic interpretation existed before I read the book.  I had only heard the rumblings of interest in lunar eclipses.  I certainly don't live with my head in the sand -- but then again, maybe I have been.  Nevertheless, this book deals nicely with the flaws in Hagee's prophetic interpretation of the four blood moons.  If prophecy stuff is your cup of tea, and you like reading about debatable issues, then this book may be of interest to you.

RATING:  I give "Blood Moons Rising" 3 1/2 stars.  I didn't really find it interesting.  But then again, I'm not that interested in the prophecy predictions of the modern day.  The book was well written, and would be a good tool for someone looking for apologetic tools to fill their tool belt.

DISCLAIMER:  I received this book free of charge from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my unbiased review.  All opinions were mine, and I was not threatened or coerced to provide a positive opinion of the book.

4.05.2014

"The Adam Quest", by Tim Stafford (book review)


How did we get here?  I don't mean to this particular page.  But how did we get "here"?  How did our parents parents parents....parents parents get here?  Did we appear suddenly when God spoke the word, bringing life into existence, causing life to give birth to life (biogenesis)?  Did our universe come into existence in a literal 6,000 years ago by the hand of God, or was there evolution over millions of years whereby inanimate material gave birth to life (abiogensis) but under God's supervision?

If this conversation interests you, this book may provide a good foundation on which to begin your journey. Don't be mistaken, Tim Stafford does not aim in this book to settle the debate on the origins of life once and for all.  Instead, he seeks to understand the various views of origin.

Stafford's son's faith was rocked by science, causing him to abandon faith altogether.  Because it hit Stafford "close to home", he decided to dive into this project -- to interview scientists from three competing views of creation: Young Earth, Intelligent Design, and Evolution.  He warns Christians who are "cut off from science are in trouble spiritually as well as materially" (p.6).  This book is an effort to encourage Christians to not fear engaging in the creation-science conversation.

THE SCIENTISTS: Stafford interviewed 11 scientists from the three different persuasions mentioned above, and told their stories, one scientist per chapter.  Each chapter details the path of life that brought them to their particular scientific endeavors.

Kurt Wise, affiliated with Answers in Genesis told Stafford he is "not an anti-evolutionist", but that he "is a creationist...[whose] life goal is to create a model that explains the world" (p.21)








Todd Wood, affiliated with the Core Academy of Sciences, says, "I'm not so interested in what's wrong with [the evolutionists'] idea.  I'm more interested in solving the puzzling issues building from Genesis" (p.37).








Dr. Georgia Purdom, also affiliated with Answers in Genesis, explains that evolutionary creationists have to deal with the problem of death since natural selection works through culling.  Humanity appeared late in the evolutionary process, and creatures (according to evolutionary theories) were dying for millions of years before humans (p.56).





Dr. Michael Behe, professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, argues from the position of "irreducible complexities of organisms: that all the parts must come together at once in order for it to have any useful function, but that none of those individual parts can function on its own (p.74).  He says, "Every major discovery [in biochemistry] has shown more and more complexity, and that's not good for Darwinism" (p.84).




Dr. Fazale Rana, of Reasons to Believe, suggests "...even the simplest cell imaginable was an extraordinary factory of precisely moving parts.  It could never "just happen'" (p.86).  He suggests life gradually increased in complexity over vast periods of time...these creatures came into being through distinct acts of creation" (p.93).






Dr. Mary Schweitzer, Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences (MEAS) at North Carolina State University, suggests, "Science can't prove the existence of God or that you love your children.  There's so much that we can't touch with science because science is meant to be measured" (p.115).






Darrel Falk, former president of the BioLogos Foundation, suggests, "God had used gradual means over millions of years to develop life" (p.125).  He points out Christian attacks on evolution do not simply represent minor disagreement with science on a peripheral issue.  Rather, they advocate a view that...the sciences of astronomy, astrophysics, nuclear physics, geology, and biology are all fundamentally wrong...So central are the notions of an old earth and the gradual appearance of life that, were they wrong, the disciplines themselves would collapse" (p.129).



Ard Louis, on the Board of Directors at the BioLogos Forum, says, "From a biologist's perspective, the only way you can show that no biological mechanism could generate complexity is by looking at all the mechanisms that are and showing that they wouldn't work.  But we don't know what all the mechanisms are" (p.148).






Denis Alexander, Emeritus Director for the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, St. Edmund's College, Cambridge, says, "Our ambition is to change the culture of the discussion between science and religion in the academic world through good scholarship and good publications" (p.166)







Simon Conway Morris, author of "Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe", writes, "...evolution has direction.  It may be random in the details but not in the outcome" (p.177).




John Polkinghorne, former Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge, now Anglican priest, suggests, "...evolution struggles to explain phenomena like consciousness, beauty, ethics, literature, art, religion, and science.  Survival does not seem enhanced by any of these" (p.196).






USEFULNESS: None of the chapters specifically dug into the nitty-gritty of the creation-science debate. Instead, Stafford used each chapter as an opportunity to introduce readers to each scientist -- how he grew up, or how she settled on her particular belief.  He wrote, "I told all of them the same thing: I was going to get out of the way and let them tell their own stories.  I wasn't going to try to referee who was right and who was wrong.  My goal was for readers to get to know them and to understand their points of view" (p.199).

Because there was a lot of "personal" history in the book, I was disappointed in the lack of depth Stafford provided from each scientist.  It made for a very safe, comfortable, and unassuming read. That said, I especially liked the concluding chapter, where Stafford provides his opinion of which view he supports, and why.

RATING: I give "The Adam Quest" 3 stars.  It was well written, but just wasn't what I had expected to read.  The title made me think more was on the line in this one.  The many books referenced within this book would likely provide readers with "evidence" they're looking for if that is indeed their goal.


DISCLAIMER: I received this book free of charge from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for my unbiased review of it.  All opinions in this review are mine.

3.30.2014

"God's Not Dead" -- 6 Reflections:


***SPOILER ALERT!!!

"God's Not Dead" has captured the attention of our society -- especially Christians -- and its contents are worth discussion.  I'd like to point some aspects I liked and a couple I didn't.  I'd love for you to share your thoughts at the end, as well.  I wanted to wait to post these after giving people some time to see "God's Not Dead" if you were planning to see it.  By now, I imagine you have if it was in your plans.  If you have not yet seen the movie and don't want to be disappointed by these reflections, please feel free to wait to read this until you have seen it.

LIKES:
1) It was great to finally see a movie in which men are not bumbling idiots and the target of all things mockery. In this movie, the main character, Josh Wheaton (played by Shane Harper), is an intelligent, strong young man who makes the decision to courageously stand up for what he believes is right.  My point is not to argue the validity of what he stands up for, but that he stands up for it.  Far too often in our world, people (myself included) are afraid to say or do what is right for fear of what others may think, or even out of respect for others' feelings.  It's a difficult line to toe, but the movie drives the point home: be courageous and do what's right -- even when it's difficult to do so.

2) I thought the argument for the existence of God was pretty good.  Sure, we'll all have conversations with naysayers who cite this or that belief about creation, but shoot, even we believers can't seem to agree on a theory of creation anyway.  As it stands, we have "young earth" vs. "intelligent design" vs. "evolutionary creation", etc., so we're obviously not going to settle the debate with the rest of the skeptical world in a brief 90-minute movie.

That said, there were still very good arguments posed for the existence of God. I would like to have seen more back-and-forth dialogue and rebuttals from each side, or in the case of the movie, from the atheist Professor Radisson (played by Kevin Sorbo).  Why?  Because that's real life.  Unfortunately, the movie made it appear that the pro-God argument is a slam dunk for Christians/theists, and they did this by having the entire class stand up at the end of the movie professing their minds had been changed about the existence of God.  Another reality is that there are some intelligent people who are our friends and authors, who have very good arguments supporting their beliefs, and whose books many of us overlook.  While I may not agree with their points, they're out there still the same.

My hope is that this movie will get Christians interested in this conversation, and preparing by reading up on it.  It's good for us to become at least remotely acquainted with others' viewpoints, no matter how much they differ.  But if we are looking to simply file away slam dunk arguments to win the "battle", we may very well come up short.  If/when we get into these conversations, we have to remember to do it with the right attitude -- RESPECT.  This movie has, at the very least, sparked some interest in dialogue, and I hope more Christians/theists will read more about it -- yes, even books written by prominent atheists like Dawkins, Dennett, and Hitchens.

3) It is refreshing to finally be able to watch a Christian movie without having to endure the talent of a 5th grade talent show.  The quality of acting and production have improved dramatically over the past decade. We've demanded it, and "Hollywood" has delivered it...so go out and support it.  Otherwise, we may keep getting junk.  You may disagree with some of the contents, but isn't that true of any movie we watch?  Movies like "Courageous", "Love Dare", and "Fireproof" come to mind as good flicks with great acting and impact.

-- OK, on to the hard part...

DISLIKES:
1) The creators of the movie made non-believers look like mean, rotten ogres.  Guess what...they're not all like that.  Just like all us Christians are not perfectly loving and accepting, non-believers are not demons in skin-suits.  A dear friend of mine is atheist, and he's far from being a mean-spirited jerk.  I used to work with an atheist, and I have another Internet acquaintance who is an atheist.  None of them have the characteristics displayed in the movie.  My good friend is intelligent and he enjoys these types of conversations -- and we've had them many times.  You probably have similar relationships with your co-workers, friends, and family, and I hope you are able to agree that most of them are not the mean-spirited souls the movie paints them to be.

For example, Professor Radisson hated God for what He did to his dying mother when he was a young boy; Mark (played by Dean Cain), a wealthy, prominent business man suddenly turns heartless when his girlfriend, Amy (played by Trisha LaFache) announces to him at a dinner engagement she has cancer; the Muslim father, Misrab (played by Marco Khan) is an over-bearing father.  While these characteristics may be true of some people, I think the producers did an injustice by not having any likable antagonists.

We ought to be gracious to those who do not believe as we do.  How does that one phrase end..."in all things charity" ?

2) Why do Christian movies ALWAYS have to end in everybody coming to Jesus?  I know it is a dear hope of ours, but it's not very accurate -- theologically or realistically. Professor Radisson had a sudden end-of-life opportunity (which he obliged) to trust Jesus Christ; Amy's cancer made her an overnight believer; and Mark kindof realizes what a turd he's been.  Everything came to a nice clean ending, and this aspect frustrates me most -- because it's not realistic.

I have had many opportunities to lead people who were in their lowest depths to Christ (given my line of work), so I am all-in when it comes to enjoying the saving work of God in a person's life.  Somehow, God miraculously lavishes His grace on us sinners and saves people at unexpected times.  However, there are equally many more times when people continue in their rejection of God -- for whatever their reason. Sharing the gospel and saving faith are not always so easy and "clean-cut" as the movie pictures.  That can cause a real frustration for well-meaning Christians who hope for the best from their conversations with unbelieving friends and family, but who don't see immediate results like the movies display.

We ought be faithful not only to speak the gospel into our world, but also to live it.  Some may respond quickly, while others may never respond.  Our role is simply to be faithful to the truth in our speech and conduct.  I hope to encourage you to do so courageously, and I think that is the focus of the movie.

3) Finally, (and this is not movie related) the theater I was in was PACKED with Christians -- and it was left in complete and utter disarray.  When the lights came on, I saw trash, food, wrappers, spilled drinks, popcorn, napkins, and cups all over the theater!  No joke.  For a movie that apparently had just inspired Christians to enter into dialogue with unbelievers, they sure didn't start by cleaning up their garbage.  It doesn't matter if it is a movie theater and it's an attendant's job to clean it up -- we ought to be respectful and responsible with our trash and the little slice we occupy.  It was unutterably distasteful, and I was appalled at what my brothers and sisters in Christ left in our wake.

CONCLUSION:  All that said, I thought "God's Not Dead" is a movie worth seeing.  I hope people will show some grace, because, after all, Christian movie producers have it hard -- they want to produce and we want to see watch-able Christian-themed flicks.  But just when they provide them, Christians start complaining about this or that, like theology or any other litany of arguments -- "There wasn't enough of the gospel"..."There was too much of the gospel"..."They make it look like people are saved by works"..."They made it look like saved people can sin however they want"...etc. etc.

I encourage you to go see it.  Enjoy it.  Read some books.  And dive into dialogue.  Because we never know what just may become of it.

What are your thoughts?

3.10.2014

Arrogance -- the New Humility:

In a recent article posted to LinkedIn, the author of that article suggests we can all learn something from Matthew McConaughey, as referenced in his Oscar acceptance speech.  While I agree his was one of the most truly genuine acceptance speeches I've heard in a long time, I'd be remiss if I didn't also say I found it to be genuinely self-absorbed.  Some might even call it "arrogance".

McConaughey set the stage in his speech by thanking God for his talent, and it sounded genuine, and as more than a mere hat tip to the Almighty.  He said all of his talents came from God's hand, and not his own.  Religious people (i.e., Christians) really like this kind of talk; we eat it up, in fact.

But the problem is that many of us also "tuned out" for the remainder of the speech, and only heard what we wanted to hear.  We turned off our brains because all those warm fuzzies tricked us into thinking everything else was OK.  From that point on, our critical thinking went out the window.



Let me draw your attention to McConaughey's last-stated purpose in life, which was "having someone to chase".  If you missed it, watch the video above.  Nowhere did he say he is chasing anybody of noble pursuit.  Just himself.  He's chasing after his future self all the time.  Nobody else; Just him.  So, Mr. McConaughey, is there really NOBODY in your world you look up to?  Nobody outside of yourself who inspires you?  You can't find some noble actor or personality in our world who inspires you to be better?  Just YOU?

Now before anyone jumps to any conclusions about "judging" Mr. McConaughey, please note that I'm judging his words, not his eternal soul.  We are instructed to judge rightly (Luke 7:43), and to be on guard against pride (Prov. 16:18).

One woman commented on the article, "I was so impressed with Matthew McConnaughey's acceptance speech. It was the best one I have ever heard. He is such a humble man! I wish there were more famous people like him! Our kids need people like him to look up to. They have no 'true' heroes anymore!"

That's just it!  THEY have someone to emulate...but not Matthew McConaughey, though.  He emulates himself, not someone else.  In fact, when acknowledging his family, he says they are the ones he wants to make most proud of him.  Of HIM.  McConaughey's statements come across as the epitome of arrogance, and it's that arrogance that we must be on guard against in our own lives.

In case you think I'm the only one, read what some others have to say:

"I'm not sure looking up to your future self is a sign of humility... but if it is, then I just hope everyone gets the chance to be as awesome as I will eventually be."

"I think his speech, aside from revealing the ego that being a movie star requires, indicates just how far we have sunk as a culture. That a person would be so self-absorbed and uneducated that he would think that having his future self as his hero is a good thing, an admirable thing, that he should discuss in public, just shows how morbidly self-congratulatory we have become."

Finally, "Mr. McConnaughey's speech was the most ignorant, self absorbed piece of dribble that I have ever hear issue from someone in a public forum. Look at me, I'm great and rich and have a golden statue to worship. Really? This is not humble, this is a glorification of his ego."

Sadly, arrogance is the new humility.

"I hate pride and arrogance", says the Lord (Prov. 8:13)

3.03.2014

The Character of the Toolmark:

For the past year, I've have been studying the discipline of forensic firearms and toolmarks analysis for the purpose of identifying or eliminating a suspected tool that may or may not have produced a given set of toolmarks (of which the forensic study of firearms is a subset of toolmarks).  While my training is technically a 2-year apprenticeship-type program, the discipline itself is a lifelong learning process.

The Bible tells us that God has revealed His truth and has made it evident to Mankind. (Romans 1:19).  I used to understand that pertaining primarily to the cosmos and creation.  However, the more I study firearms and tools, the more I see His truth evident at the microscopic level.

Below are a couple statements pertaining to the study of toolmarks from a published scientific journal, and following them I've included a couple references from Scripture and some thoughts about the two for its application to the Christian life:

TOOLMARKS -  "Once test toolmarks are generated, they should be compared to each other to observe the characteristics and reproducibility of the toolmarks, and then compared with the evidence toolmark."

You see, in this discipline, when we receive a tool for examination (including firearms), we obtain test samples of the tool and first compare them against each other for the purposes briefly detailed above.  Once we observe those microscopic identifying characteristics, we proceed to compare the evidence against the test sample.  We KNOW the tested tool produced the test sample, but we don't know yet if that same tool produced the evidence submitted for examination.  Simply comparing two test samples together doesn't tell us anything about the evidence; it only tells us about the test samples and their origin.  That's why we need to compare the evidence to the test.

Likewise...

2Corinthians 10:12 -  "...they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement.  How foolish!"

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are foolish to compare ourselves to each other -- i.e., "I'm better than that guy because I don't fall to such-and-such a temptation like he does..." etc.  No, you just don't sin the same way he does!  But when I compare myself against Jesus Christ -- the standard -- I see my sin for what it truly is!  SIN!

TOOLMARKS -  "...the examiner is evaluating the character of the toolmark...If significant differences are present then an elimination could be justified."

I won't get into the theological debates surrounding those who are truly "saved" or not, if the person could lose her salvation, or if she is eternally secure.  That's not the point here.  Instead -- and I recognize it's not a direct one-to-one correlation -- I want to bring out the truth of God evident everywhere we look...if we just look for it.

Likewise...

Ephesians 5:1 -  "Imitate God in everything you do..."  
Matthew 7:16 - "You will know a tree by its fruit."

As a follower of Jesus Christ, the character of my identifiers ought to reflect the image of Jesus Christ Himself. If they do not, where does that leave me?  (Again, I'm setting theological debates aside.)  Do my thoughts, my words, my actions -- everything about me -- reflect Jesus Christ?  I am being made daily in the likeness of my Savior, and none of us will be complete until we are finally and completely transformed in Glory.  But do I reflect him -- even if dimly -- while I sojourn this earth?

Jesus used fruit imagery; I like this toolmark imagery.  It's not "better"; just a different approach.  It speaks my language: I'm not a gardener, but I am an investigator.  And I see His truth evident it the grand, as well as the microscopic.



Source:  "An Introduction to the Forensic Examination of Toolmarks", by Jerry Miller, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; published in the Association of Firearms and Toolmarks Examiners Journal, 2001.

2.28.2014

"The Dude's Guide to Manhood", by Darrin Patrick (book review)

Sex, drugs, and rock & roll; girls, muscle cars, and muscle.  These are just a few things society says are manly pursuits.  To combat the proliferation of sex and violence in the media, a lot of books in circulation written by well-intending Christians who hope to inspire men to be true men.  But many of those books miss the mark.

"The Dude's Guide to Manhood", however, hits the bulls-eye.  If there's ever to be a best-selling book dealing with guy issues and man stuff, then this will be it.  The author, Darrin Patrick, pulls no punches and he hides behind no bushes.  He tells it like it needs to be told, but not in a condemning or condescending way. Instead, Patrick encourages and inspires with true wisdom that does not come across as being "preachy".

CONTENTS:  Twelve chapters in 170 pages tell it like it is --
1 - Become a Determined Man
2 - Become a Coachable Man
3 - Become a Disciplined Man
4 - Become a Working Man
5 - Become a Content Man
6 - Become a Devoted Man
7 - Become a Family Man
8 - The Connected Man
9 - The Emotional Man
10 - The Fighting Man
11 - The Heroic Man
12 - Living as the Forgiven Man

There are many insights and phrases I could quote to commend this book, but there's not enough space to cover it in a short book review.  Instead, I'd prefer to ask you a few questions: "How do you want to be remembered when you're gone?"  "When people speak about you, what will they say about your character?" "Before drifting off to sleep each night, what kind of character did you display that day?"

This book is about all those things that truly make great men great -- and it's not about surrounding themselves with pretty women, flashy clothes, big muscles, and expensive cars.  It's about being a role model for your sons to imitate (p.19); It's about being an employee who can be trusted and respected (p.52); It's about making your woman's character beautiful (p.78); It's about taking risks when it matters (p.90); It's about being simultaneously tough and tender (p.127).

ITS EFFECT ON ME: There were several times when I had to put the book down and reflect upon my own life and character.  What was truly remarkable about the book is how Patrick accomplished that: he proclaimed biblical manliness without throwing the Bible at me.  Using God's truth, Patrick cut to the heart using godly principles.

Knowing Patrick's desire for godliness AND manliness, however, I was pleased with his concluding chapters.  He wasn't content to leave his readers thinking it was just OK to one day die as a well-respected "good man". Instead, I think he earns the trust of his readers by the way he presented this message through the first 10 chapters to introduce them to Jesus Christ -- the Man of men.  I think it was good timing and was presented tastefully.  Trusting the Sovereign to save, Patrick concludes the book instructing men how to live as new men -- forgiven men -- men of God.

AUTHOR'S PAGE: Darrin Patrick's page can be found here.

RATING: Without a doubt, I give "The Dude's Guide to Manhood" 5 stars.  I'd give 6 if it were possible, but 5 is the cut-off.  I highly recommend this book to all men for themselves and as a gift for young men.  Mom's -- pick one up as a gift for the son in your life...but be careful how you give a copy to your husband or boyfriend.

DISCLAIMER: I received this book free of charge from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for my unbiased review of it.  All opinions are mine, and were not forced upon me to provide a positive review.